Friday, December 01, 2006

You Have No Choice

By Moshe Feiglin

Founder and President, Manhigut Yehudit
Kislev, 5767 (Dec. 06)

This article, translated and excerpted from Moshe Feiglin's new book, The War of Dreams, was originally written on the, 24th of Sivan 5763 (June 24, 2003)

The journalist who came to my home in Karnei Shomron intended to write an in-depth article. He wasn't interested in details of the Likud Conference and didn't even mention Rabin's murder. He asked substantive questions and our conversation became increasingly serious.

"You say that Sharon is incapable of extricating us from the crisis," the journalist stated. "So who is capable? What is your alternative?"

"No current politician, from the Left or from the Right, is capable of confronting reality," I replied. "They lack the tools to understand reality, and certainly those needed to deal with it. This is the same as expecting a Chinese person to analyze a Hebrew text by Agnon."

"So what's the solution?" he repeated.

"The solution is to establish a Jewish State here," I replied.

"You mean a state run by Jewish law?"

"I don't know what a state run by Jewish law is. I haven't come across Jewish laws that deal with running a country in the Code of Jewish Law. Unfortunately, the Torah seminaries have not developed such laws over the course of the last two thousand years. No, I don't mean a state run by Jewish law. I mean a country that is constantly aspiring to implement its Jewish identity. The role of Manhigut Yehudit is simply to chart out the way. The process will take place by itself. We have to make every effort. The faster we move, the more blood and tears will be prevented."

"How will a Jewish State solve the problem of terror?" the journalist continued.

"The bottom line is that when we know what we are doing here - why we came and why we must remain - we will revitalize our determination and the belief that we are right. The other side will then automatically lose its hope of driving us out. Furthermore, Israel's army will exemplify Jewish moral principles instead of false Western-Christian morality. When we understand that this is our country, we won't have any problem with expelling those who challenge our sovereignty and attempt to destroy us. Not only will we pursue the murderers, but the entire supporting community will pay a heavy price, as well. In short, a Jewish State that believes that it is right can overcome its enemies."

"I understand," said the journalist. "But you know, I have a problem. Actually, you've got a problem. I'm not religious. I am an eighth generation Israeli. My grandfather was a rabbi in Tiberias, but I don't believe in all this. Hebron means nothing to me, and as far as I'm concerned it's fine to exchange East Jerusalem for peace. So what can you do with someone like me, who prefers Israel the way it is? I don't want your Jewish State…"

"You have no choice," I said to him.

"What do you mean, 'You have no choice'?" he asked in amazement.

"Look", I replied, "the current issue is not peace or war. We are at war whether we like it to not. The real issue is the identity of the state: Will Israel be a Jewish State, or a state of all its citizens? Those who strive to eliminate the Jewish identity of the state are also those who ceaselessly attempt to get rid of the territories associated with our Jewish identity: Shechem, Hebron, the Temple Mount. In contrast, those who cling to their Jewish identity cling to the Land of Israel. The greater their personal Jewish identity, the deeper their link with, and hold on, the country.

"Your problem," I continued, "is that because your Israeli consciousness lacks identity, you are incapable of facing up to reality. You board a bus and don't know if you'll get off it. You enter a coffee-house and they check to see if you're concealing a bomb in your shoe. The IDF enters Gaza and then withdraws, and the Kassam missiles continue to fall on Sderot. It's only a question of time until the Hizbullah starts bombarding Haifa - and the average Israeli has no answer. Your life is becoming more and more unstable. You don't change your plans when you hear of a terrorist attack. You don't even stop eating a hearty meal when you hear that another bus has blown up. It's somewhat reminiscent of what happened to the ghetto Jews - after a certain stage they became used to the dead bodies surrounding them…"

I let the journalist absorb my words, and then continued:

"You were in exile for two thousand years. Every time you encountered a similar situation you got up, packed the contents of your home into a suitcase and made your way to another country. Today you have citizenship. The State of Israel has even eliminated your option of receiving a UN refugee's certificate. In short, you are stuck with your Israeli-ness and your life is rapidly losing its meaning -- in the physical sense as well.

"The question whether we will have a Jewish State or a state of all its citizens, whether to be Jewish or Israeli, is no longer theoretical. It is a question of life or death. You have no option of choosing whether to be a Jew or an Israeli. The question that is becoming increasingly more extreme is whether to be a Jew or not be at all.

"It's just like what G-d said to the Jewish People when they received the Torah on Mount Sinai: Either accept your Jewish identity, or here will be your burial place. (Or, in modern terms: ‘You have no choice’)."

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps a better way to explain what a "Jewish State" is, is to avoid Torah terminology completely. Our history as a tribal people with eretz yisrael as our homeland is clear enough. It's abundantly supported by the archaeology, by not only Jewish record keeping but also by Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman records. This is our tribal homeland.

Exile didn't work: we were never truly accepted into any other nation as Jews. And for good reason: as long as we maintained a separate identity and connection, however distant, with our land, the non-Jews couldn't fully trust us. Were we truly ever Turks or Spanish or English or French or German or (has to be said) American? When push came to shove, did our loyalty lie with that country-- or with Jews and Israel? Even if we claimed to be loyal to them, THEY never believed it.

So it is the same now that we are back in the land. Do WE believe it? No other nation allows its legitimacy, its very existence to be questioned. Why is it so hard for so many Jews to accept the self-evident truth that this IS our only tribal homeland? Don't they understand what happens if that is undermined, if we doubt our right to be here? How to explain to the predominantly religious Muslim world that we went to all this trouble to re-establish Israel but we don't really believe we have the right to live and pray in Hebron?

The Arabs DO understand this. They say that if we don't believe it, then we shouldn't be here-- and that we will eventually stop fighting for our right to be here. Without belief, our long-term committment to be ready to fight for the right to stand tall in our own land simply will collapse. They are right. Why should we fight to be anywhere, whether Tel Aviv or Hebron?

Anonymous said...

Tribal homeland? Maybe that resonates with you, Matthew, but it sure doesn't do so with me. Some of us have been taught to feel that tribalism is a primitive thing and we, of course, are well beyond that.

They try to tell us that our Judaism is primitive, those who are ever so sophisticated. All those primitive rituals, like kashrut and Shabbos observance.

Can't you just hear it now? "Those blankety-blank Jews finally admit it; they're nothing but another primitive tribe. When will they enter the modern age?"

And some of our super-sensitive or otherwise weaker brethren will cringe and do their customary apologetics over the issue.

No, it's not our tribal homeland. It's our National Homeland and we are very proud.

Anonymous said...

if 'modern' means facile philosophical sleight-of-hand, if all we have to lean on is 'nationalism' which grew out of western enlightenment ideas in the 1880s, then that's not enough.

If we have a choice between being a modern 'nation' and a tribal, 'primitive' nation whose roots extend back to our origins in meaningful and mythical stories that extend back to the beginning of time, I'm happy to be called a primitive. And our justification for being Jews in the land MUST be built on that genuine history, with its unabashedly 'primitive' roots in the twelve tribes.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this blog and I quite like it.
I'm a secular non religious person but I agree Moshe Feiglin's ideas, follow the website and enjoyed this article.
You're right though about there being a problem in explaining this in words to others.